Art used as means of expressing sufferings
By: Saira Agha
Artists, like journalists, sometimes cannot be expressive about societal issues in places they feel threatened the most. Imagine a place where even thoughts are threatened. Such a place is our country. Why the comparison between journalists and artists? Simply because they are the ones who are heard, seen and sometimes followed. The question is, can art be affectively and assertively used as a medium to express the atrocities beared by the people and victims of war-hit zones within a country?
“Unfortunately, there is always neutrality to the way wars are painted by artists in not just our society but elsewhere too sometimes. I believe in total and utter biasedness,” says art critic, artist and art educator Quddus Mirza. “The Tribal Areas of our country can easily be deemed as trouble areas of our country instead, owing to the constant terror that lurks there and the soaring casualties we experience so often. Artists should come together and paint the true picture of the ongoing happenings and crisis these areas are experiencing, instead of shying away because of a life threat.”
Why hold the pen if truth cannot be written? Why have a tongue, if honesty cannot be expressed? Why have eyes when you shut them on seeing injustice? Why have a mind when one cannot understand the pains and suffering of our war-hit Pakistani brothers and sisters? Why reach for a brush when absolute realism is ignored? One wonders, but then again on taking a look at our country’s fresh, budding and talented artists’ work, the relief engulfs you.
These five artists from the various war zones of Pakistan were enlisted to take part in an exhibition that showed the human face of war, each one of them encapsulating a unique perspective on the conflict. Their experiences under brutal conditions of fear and persecution have undoubtedly shaped them as people and defined them as artists. Sajid Khan, Sajjad Hussain, Suleman Khilji, Suleman Mengal and Shakila Haider painted a picture so deep and thought provoking of our war-hit regions, I believe no voice could be too loud or no cry could be too shrill to have your attention on the injustices being imparted on our own soil.
“It is terrific. We never get to see this side of the war. I love the fact that real opinions and feelings have been expressed here. For facts, figures and breaking news, there are always the news channels. But whatever happened to sentiments and feelings? These paintings depict the true picture of our sufferings,” says a visitor at the Drawing Room art gallery where the works of these immensely talented artists are being showcased.
“What is fascinating to see, is that the human side of the war is stressed in all of these paintings. These artists have made sure that they use their talent of art as a means of expressing their views over this unjust war,” says Seher Tareen, the designer behind Studio S and who is also currently working on her thesis on artists from war zones.
Does a bomb blast merely takes away a life or a belonging? Does a gunshot infused by hatred just takes away the beat of a heart? For some, maybe yes. But for others, it ignites a passion for revenge. Hate begets hate, violence begets violence, and tears beget abhorrence. Such is the cost of war.
“What is saddening to note is the the state of complacency we all are in, believe it or not. I remember going to Peshawar where bomb blasts and carnage litter one side of the city, and on the other weddings and other commercial festivities continue on,” says another visitor.
“Insensitivity should be the word for our settlement with violence,” adds Quddus.
I could not have agreed more. ‘Settlement’ is the word for our feelings and realisations towards these atrocities. So does settlement mean we are turning a blind eye to all this horror and human massacre or are we assured that a hero will come and save us from this barbarity ultimately?
“I think my main inspiration behind the paintings I did was the hurt caused by seeing such young children eager to play with toy guns on Eid and their innocent happiness on holding one seemed almost tangible,” says Shakila.
“Pakistan is hanging by a thread altogether, if I dare say and it’s not just the Hazara tribe and the Tribal Area violence victims,” said Pakistani artist, cultural writer and painter Salima Hashmi. “But if you just talk about Balochistan, matters are out of control now. It is actually heart-breaking.”
God promised a flip side to everything when He created the universe, didn’t He? For every good, there is evil, for every Heaven, Hell; for every pain, relief; and for every hopeless word, an optimistic itch.
“I just kept thinking and became more and more sure of it while I was busy working on my painting. Life will be better here. I am hopeful. Are you?” added Shakila.
Quddus very aptly upheld Shakila’s positivity by quoting Faiz’s beautiful piece of poetry, “Dil na’umeed nhi nakaam hi to hai, Lambi hai gham ki sham magr shaam hi to hai.”